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What is Learning Agility?

The ability to adapt effectively to the continuous change of our time is a requirement for effective management and leadership in this new millennium. To effectively lead others, one skill that managers need is learning agility. Learning agility is the ability to maximize learning from our experiences–the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s a fancy term that is getting some needed attention in leadership circles. You’ll find a lot of academic work on it around the web.

Learning agility is not new to me however. My wise Southern Grandmother used to talk about it all the time. She did not use fancy words and she never published a research study, but she explained it as good as anyone today is doing. She would say: You have to learn from your mistakes! That’s the simple non-fancy meaning of learning agility – learning from your mistakes.

The ability to learn from one's mistakes is critical to effective leadership. Click To Tweet

Learning agility may seem easy to master, but it is more difficult than it appears. Learning agility requires self awareness, emotional intelligence, and an openness to the feedback of others. To truly learn from our mistakes, we must be willing to accept the blame when we’ve messed up. We can never learn from our mistakes if we’ve convinced ourselves that we never make them.

In the real world, exercising learning agility is not always easy to do – especially when everyone’s emotions and egos are involved. As tough as it is to do, however, we have to get there.

Over the years, I’ve known some very smart managers who were unable to evolve and adapt as they faced new challenges. They had no learning agility. Instead of adapting effectively to the change occurring around them, these managers became stuck on what has always worked for them in the past. They doubled down on their strengths and avoided addressing their weaknesses. These managers unknowingly fell into Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity:

Picture Quote_Albert Einstein on Insanity


Learning agility is critical to our success. To be effective, we must continually learn and adapt our approach to management and leadership. This learning and adapting must never stop.

The Rapid Pace of Change in Business

Why is learning agility important? Why is it essential to effective management and leadership?  It is important because the rules of business keep changing and they are changing rapidly! In fact the workplace is changing so quickly that change is now the normal way of doing business. In our time, businesses that refuse to learn from their mistakes and adapt quickly and effectively will ultimately fail. Since businesses are made up of people, a better way of saying this is the following:

The workforce is changing. Leaders must quickly learn from their mistakes and adapt. Click To Tweet

The Changing Workforce

Your team members depend on you to lead them successfully and that leads me to the final reason why learning agility is critical – the workforce is changing in some drastic ways. These changes in the workforce are putting even more pressure on managers at every level to be at the top of their game.

Five significant changes to the workforce are the following:

  1. The contingent workforce
  2. The connected workforce
  3. The global workforce
  4. The virtual workforce
  5. The generational workforce

Managers will make the difference in whether a business succeeds or fails. This means that you will make that difference every day for your team. These are tough words, but they are true. Your ability to learn from your mistakes and adapt effectively and quickly is critical to your organization’s success. It’s critical to your success. It’s critical to the success of your team.

Video: The Changing Workforce

The workforce is changing! The workforce now is contingent, connected, global, virtual, and generational. Click To Tweet
Written by Robert Tanner | Copyrighted Material | All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Robert Tanner, MBA

Welcome to my leadership blog. I'm the Founder & Principal Consultant of Business Consulting Solutions LLC, a certified practitioner of psychometric assessments, and a former Adjunct Professor of Management. As a leadership professional, I bring 20+ years of real world experience at all levels of management.

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